You probably saw some user reviews giving Dickies pants a low rating because they shrunk. So now, you are fact-checking whether it’s true—do Dickies pants shrink for real?
Despite being known as high-quality, durable workwear, Dickies work pants shrink when we launder them using the wrong washer and dryer settings. Even so, it’s not the brand’s fault. You can run into the same problem with any clothing made of cotton blends.
This guide will discuss everything you need to know about the science behind shrinking cotton pants and how you can avoid this issue.
Table of Contents
- Reasons Why Dickies Pants Shrink
- How Much Can Dickies Pants Shrink?
- Where Do Dickies Pants Shrink the Most?
- Some Types of Shrinking Dickies Pants
- Tips to Prevent Dickies Pants From Shrinking When Washed and Put in the Dryer
- How Often Should I Wash Dickies Pants?
Reasons Why Dickies Pants Shrink
1. Natural fibers and synthetic fibers react differently when exposed to heat.
Any textile made of natural fibers like cotton, wool, and silk shrinks faster than synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon.
During the manufacturing process, the cotton fibers are stretched and spun to form a tightly woven fabric. If you are not careful, these interlaced strands can slacken in the wash and dry process, causing the fabric to shrivel.
That’s not to say that synthetic fibers are invincible, as they reduce in size under extremely hot conditions. However, they are not as sensitive to heat as natural fibers are.
In Dickies’ case, the manufacturer blended cotton with polyester to create the 874 pants, though some of the other designs are made of pure cotton. Nevertheless, combining natural fibers with synthetic ones reinforces the fabric and makes it more resistant to shrinkage.
2. Moisture, high heat, and high-speed cycles remove the tension.
Washing and drying in and of themselves cannot shrink the cotton fabrics—it’s what you expose them to during the process that can potentially shrivel them. The main culprits to avoid are heat and intense agitation.
Cotton fibers in the pants loosen up when subjected to extreme heat. Moreover, they will further relax once they get wet and agitated in the washer. What makes it worse is that cotton fabrics are also more moisture-absorbent than other textiles, making them more likely to shrink.
Just the same, Dickies shrink in the dryer and under the iron when high heat is applied.
How Much Can Dickies Pants Shrink?
Dickies trousers can shrivel in size by up to three inches. Keep in mind that how small it would shrink hinges on factors like fabric composition and the amount of heat applied to the garment.
Where Do Dickies Pants Shrink the Most?
Exposing Dickies trousers to heat can shrink the entire length by more or less an inch. Likewise, it can contract by up to three inches around the waist.
Some Types of Shrinking Dickies Pants
Given that there are so many different types of Dickies pants on the market, checking the tag is the best way to determine whether the one you got is more vulnerable to heat or not.
In this section, we gathered a handful of models and explain why they may shrink:
1. Dickies cargo pants
Within the cargo pants catalog, Dickies have launched several models, which include but are not limited to the following:
- Loose Fit Straight-leg cargo pants: 8.5 oz 100% cotton
- Performance Workwear GDT pants: 98% cotton and 2% lycra
- Duratech ripstop cargo pants: 65% cotton, 30% polyester, and 5% elastane
- Duck cargo pants: 9 oz Duck, 68% cotton, 30% polyester, and 2% lycra
As you can see, each cargo pants design is constructed from materials that have varying percentages of cotton fibers. Therefore, not all of them can withstand the adverse effects of heat.
2. Dickies jeans
Manufacturers like Dickies incorporate elastic materials like spandex or lycra to allow some jeans to stretch. As with the cargo pants, a couple of models contain polyester to strengthen the fabric.
Even so, jeans can shrivel up to 4% of their size because of the cotton content. Here are some examples:
- Double-knee denim jeans: 100% heavyweight denim cotton
- Duratech Renegade denim jeans: 12.5 oz 68% cotton, 30% polyester, and 2% elastane
- FLEX carpenter jeans: 10.9 oz stretch denim—74% Cotton, 25% polyester, and 1% Spandex
3. Dickies carpenter pants and painter pants
Like any work trousers, Dickies use durable cotton fabrics to make its specialized carpenter and painter pants:
- Double-knee utility painter’s pants: 100% cotton
- FLEX painter’s pants: 7.75 oz mechanical stretch twill—65% polyester and 35% cotton
- Heavyweight carpenter pants: 100% cotton
4. Dickies 874
It takes a greater effort to make Dickies 874 shrink as it contains a higher percentage of polyester—65% polyester and 35% cotton to be exact.
Not too long ago, the brand also launched a khaki pants collection using the reversed formula: 65% cotton and 35% polyester. With a higher percentage of cotton, it’s easy to shrink khaki pants with the wrong washing techniques.
Tips to Prevent Dickies Pants From Shrinking When Washed and Put in the Dryer
As discussed earlier, the dryer is not the only one to blame for downsizing your pants. To prevent pants from shrinking, you need to employ multiple strategies:
- Check the care tag before washing to learn the best practices for cleaning and caring for your Dickies pants.
- Avoid washing your pants if you only wear them for a few hours or an entire day.
- Wash your Dickies pants only with cool or lukewarm water. As explained above, heat causes cotton to shrink.
- If you have the time, hand-wash your pants. Otherwise, use the gentlest cycle in the washing machine.
- Since Dickies shrink in the dryer, hang your pants to air-dry them after washing. Not only does it prevent damaging the fibers, but it also minimizes the creases, which means no ironing is needed!
How Often Should I Wash Dickies Pants?
Generally speaking, your work trousers can go for days without washing. However, bear in mind that the frequency depends largely on fabric composition and how dirty they are.
Here’s a cheat sheet on washing frequency:
- Khaki: 2 to 4 wears
- Jeans: 3 to 10 wears
- Twill: 4 to 5 wears
Of course, wearing your pants often means that you sweat in them and expose them to dirt more often. In this case, you will have to wash them more frequently.
Regardless of the type of pants that you have, treat the stains as soon as you can and get them laundered. If you leave them to sit for longer without spot-cleaning or treatment, they become harder to wash as they set on the fabric more permanently and won’t come off, even when washed in the machine.
If you want to wash Dickies pants without shrinking, identify the fabric composition and follow the washing instructions on the care tag. That’s all you need to remember!
To be clear, we are not just targeting Dickies. We wrote this article to answer our readers’ question, “Do Dickies pants shrink?”
Other brands also use cotton to make work pants, making them prone to shrinkage. As long as the garment is made of natural fibers, it will downsize when washed in hot water and agitated in the machine.
Veronica is our content editor. She is a talent in delivery. Her main work is editing and writing articles that are both informative and simple to follow. She is in charge of synthesizing our understanding of what personal protection equipment (PPE) is needed in each job, how to best apply it, and how to visualize that equipment.